Frustrating conclusion for Spartans

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Clinging to a one-goal lead in a first-place Rio Hondo League showdown with Monrovia High, La Cañada High boys' soccer Coach Alex Harrison looked to kill some clock.

The Spartans earned a goal kick in stoppage time Friday after a Monrovia corner kick went out of bounds untouched. Harrison asked the referee for a substitution, but was denied by the referee, who told Harrison it was at his digression to allow subs in stoppage time.

"I've never had that happen before," Harrison said. "Honestly, every goal kick you're allowed to have a sub and a little gamesmanship I was trying to burn a little extra time and at the same time [La Cañada defender] Garrett [Apel] had been cramping up, so I was trying to get somebody with fresh legs in to help me out on defense."

The Wildcats earned a free kick 13 yards away from La Cañada's goal less than a minute later. Monrovia's Carey Osimo made it worthwhile as he made a run to the back post and leaped to nudge in a perfectly played ball off the kick from teammate Matt Partain to knot the contest at 1 in extra time.

"I didn't get [the substitution] when I wanted it and he gave it to me after they got the foul, but to me the game should have been over already," Harrison said.

The goal stood up for a 1-1 tie at La Cañada Friday afternoon as both teams remain deadlocked for first in league.

The Spartans (10-5-2, 3-0-2 in league) kept pushing after the goal from Monrovia (15-6-3, 3-0-2) to earn a corner kick. La Cañada's Armand Bagramyan whipped the corner into the box, but before the Spartans could make a play on it referees called the play dead, gave Monrovia possession and blew the final whistle immediately after.

It was another call that frustrated La Cañada.

"They said that there was contact with the goalkeeper, which I think is bogus because there was contact with our goalkeeper when [the Wildcats] scored their goal," Bagramyan said. "If he didn't call it for them why did he do it to us?"

It was an unfortunate turn of events for La Cañada as it reminded Bagramyan of the Spartans' 2-2 tie to San Marino on Jan. 13 after the Titans scored a last-second goal.

"This is the second home game we've given up a win in the last second," Bagramyan said. "We have to really pick it up in the last couple minutes of the game. I am really disappointed with our team."

It looked like the Spartans had notched the winner when Bagramyan, who didn't play the entire first half, nailed home the game's first goal in the 66th minute off a 20-yard free kick.

"I felt nauseous and still hurt from my [foot] injury," said Bagramyan of why he didn't play in the first half. "I came in the second half still not feeling good and I shot it not really knowing what would happen and it went in. I surprised myself I guess."

Both teams had six shots on goal in the game, but quality scoring chances were rare.

Monrovia was able to create some opportunities off corner and free kicks in the first half, but most were dealt with by La Cañada goalkeeper Graham Labran-Boyd, who had seven saves.

"[This game] motivates us because we're tired of tying at the end of the game," Bagramyan said. "Next game we'll step it up completely because we don't want to tie anymore. We want to make our mark on this league and get the win. When we play Monrovia next we'll get the win there, too."

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